Authors: Cathy Tully
Tags: #Romance, #sweet, #late life
Marrying Mr. Right
Dearly Beloved Series
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
Marrying Mr. Right
COPYRIGHT © 2013 by Cathleen M. Riccie
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
Tina Lynn Stout
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
PO Box 708
Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708
Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com
Last Rose of Summer
Digital ISBN 978-1-61217-702-1
Dearly Beloved Series
Published in the United States of America
I want to thank Kathy Cottrell for this opportunity and my critique partners, The Gems, for their fearless cheerleading. You rock, ladies!
And to my daughters for their never ending belief that I would one day become a published author. Girls, you are two of my proudest accomplishments. Never let anyone tell you you can't follow your dreams! I'll love you always.
Last, but not least, I want to thank my husband, Joe, whose relentless support and encouragement give me the strength to persevere. Always and forever, honey. xoxox
I think I’m going to throw up.
As Missy Modesto wrapped a colorful bouquet in coordinating tissue paper for the customer who waited patiently at the counter, she cleared her throat then repeated the nauseating message the client on the phone requested she write on the card that would be attached to two-dozen red roses, “Pumpkin Pie…Happy Anniversary. Forever Yours, Jerr Bear.”
Bile rose in her throat. She didn’t mean to sound cynical, but even after twenty-seven years of marriage she and her ex, Vinnie, never spoke to each other that way. She blew out a breath. That’s probably why they were in the middle of a divorce.
“Perfect!” the caller, a Mr. Ross, crowed. “She’ll love it.”
“Wonderful,” Missy said.
Because I couldn’t repeat it if you wanted me to
Mr. Ross disconnected. Missy’s stomach settled.
The bell above the shop door chimed again. The phone hadn’t stopped ringing since Missy arrived at The Flower Box earlier this morning. She handed Mrs. Prime, the long-time elderly client, her weekly bouquet of mixed flowers. “Enjoy.”
Mrs. Prime smiled then exited the shop.
Missy quickly intercepted the ringing phone, noting the caller ID before speaking. Did every obsessive compulsive women living in this end of New Jersey conspire to demand her services today? Was there something in the water? In the air? Was the moon about to go full?
On a sigh, Missy said, “Mrs. Butler, your order will be delivered by five o’clock today. I’ll see to it myself.”
She no sooner disconnected when the phone rang again—just as the bell above the door signaled yet another customer had entered the small store.
“One dozen red roses for next Wednesday?” Missy jotted the order on the pad beside the register. “No problem, Mr. Wagner. I’ll use the credit card number on file. Have a good day.”
When she looked up, she wasn’t prepared to see her daughter‘s smiling face. “Oh my gosh, Cara! Did I forget something?”
Cara chuckled. “No, Mom, and you’re not having a senior moment. I wanted to surprise you.”
The two women hugged then Missy stepped back to assess her daughter. “Have I told you that you’re beautiful?”
With a dramatic eye roll, Cara said, “Only all the time.”
Her shoulder length brown hair was pulled back into a neat ponytail. Her clear brown eyes sparkled. Even with minimal make-up, she was still breathtaking. A navy blue skirt and blazer, a beige silk blouse, pearl studs, and navy blue pumps finished Cara’s look. No matter how she tried, Missy didn’t think she’d ever get used to seeing her daughter, an up and coming attorney, in a business suit and heels. For years, the kid had lived in sweats and t-shirts, swearing she wouldn’t be caught dead in high heels.
“So what brings you to town on a Thursday?”
Cara handed over a small box wrapped in bright pink paper. “I wanted to see you on your birthday.”
“You shouldn’t have.” Missy ripped it open like a kid at Christmas. “What is it?” Beneath cotton batting, she found a pin in the shape and appearance of Hugo, the love of her life. “It’s fabulous!” she squealed. “Put it on me.”
After Cara fastened the pin in place on her lapel, Missy turned to check her image in the mirror beside the counter.
“Is Ann coming in today?” Cara asked.
Ann Black had been Missy’s assistant since she opened the shop. Missy checked her watch. “She should be here in a few minutes.”
“Great, then I can take you to lunch.” She placed her black patent leather clutch on the counter and walked around the shop, sniffing a bouquet here, touching a silk arrangement there.
Missy’s mouth tightened in a straight line. “Is everything okay? Dan is well?”
At the mention of Dan O’Brien, a Wall Street stockbroker with whom Cara had been living with for the past two years, a huge smile spread across Cara’s beautiful face. “Everything’s…perfect.”
Before Missy could comment further, Ann strode into the shop, bringing with her the touch of a crisp autumn breeze. She pushed the door closed. “It’s really blowing up out there, but I’m not complaining.” She looked up and smiled. “Well look who’s here!” Ann dropped her shopping bag and hugged Cara. “How are you?”
“And work?” Ann asked.
“Busy, but good.”
Ann slipped out of her sweater coat. “Good. Busy is good.” She glanced at Missy and exchanged a what’s going on? look.
Missy stepped out from behind the counter. “My daughter’s taking me to lunch. You can handle things while I’m gone, right?”
Ann nodded. “Absolutely. You two have fun.” She turned to answer the ringing phone.
Anxious to spend rare alone time with her daughter and escape the busy shop, Missy pulled her purse from beneath the counter. “Okay, let’s go.”
Outside, the sun shone bright on Lighthouse Bay, a small beach community in New Jersey that had been her home for the past twenty-nine years. Missy inhaled the pungent smell of salt water and the cool breeze that made her feel alive again. Sea gulls soared overhead. God, she loved living here. Before the kids were born, commuting to work in Manhattan had been simple with easy access to the New Jersey Transit station in the middle of town.
After Cara was born, Missy stayed home because it didn’t make sense to spend her entire paycheck on a babysitter. Besides, once she laid eyes on her beautiful Cara, Missy had no desire to leave her with anyone but herself. Two years later, her son Nick came along. Missy thrived on being a stay at home mom, but after awhile, as the kids got older, she found she needed more.
Since she’d always aspired to become a florist, she figured there was no better time. So she went back to school at night for a degree in flower design. It had been difficult at first, needing to refocus much of her attention on her studies with the children used to having her on call 24/7. But once she developed a schedule that balanced kids and school, they came to respect her study time and everything fell into place. Shortly after graduation, she applied for a small business loan to open The Flower Box. Hard to believe that was seven years ago.
Helen Dabek and her husband, John, owners of the dry cleaners down the block from The Flower Box waved hello. “Hi!” Missy hollered back. John busily swept the sidewalk as Helen pulled their garbage can to the back of the alley.
Cara slipped her hand through her mother’s arm. “Let’s go to Luigi’s. I’m starving.”
They waited for the town senior citizen trolley to turn the corner before they crossed. Missy swallowed the sudden lump in her throat. She hadn’t been to Luigi’s since she and Vinnie separated almost nine months ago. She couldn’t bring herself to step back inside the eatery they had once christened “their place” more years ago than she cared to remember.
But as her daughter’s visit out of the blue was as rare as a blizzard in July, she told herself to suck it up. Cara had come to see her. Why shouldn’t they go to Luigi’s? Today was as good a time as any to reclaim part of her life she had enjoyed so much.
Out of nowhere, Casey, the Labrador retriever who lived next door to Missy, flew by. His owner, Jackie Smith, hot on his trail, passed, but then had to stop to catch her breath. “Damn dog!” she cursed when she saw Missy and Cara. “I swear he’d live at the park if I let him. He gets one look at the leash and he’s off.”
Missy looked down the block in the direction of the town park and figured Casey, one of the rowdier members of the local canine set, was long gone. “Do you need help catching him?” she asked Jackie.
“Naw. No doubt he’ll be so busy humping the Irish setter he’s taken a recent shine to he won’t even hear me coming.” She straightened from her crouch and headed toward the park, waving over her shoulder. “Good to see you, Cara. Don’t be such a stranger.”
As soon as they started to cross the street to reach Luigi’s, Missy asked in a low voice, “Are you pregnant?”
Cara stopped in her tracks, eyes wide, mouth in the shape of an O and stared at her mother.
Uh-oh, had she blown her daughter’s surprise?
An instant later, Cara laughed. “Mom, please get serious.”
“What else is a mother to think? You show up out of the blue, you’re happy and you claim to be starving. I don’t know—it seemed like a good guess.”
They resumed walking. The combination of warmth from the sun mixed with a delicious autumn breeze felt exhilarating. Missy made a mental note to get out of the shop more often at lunchtime if only to clear her head and re-energize. Now was an especially good time to make a change, with the change in weather signifying her favorite time of year. A block away, a small crowd of kids gathered outside the local library.
Cara nodded toward the children. “What’s going on?”
Missy smiled. “Remember when we used to go to reading time at the library?”
Cara nodded. “Oh yeah. Mrs. McCormick read us all the Judy Bloom books. She was great.”
“She’s retired, but her daughter-in-law stepped in to take over. Things sure have changed since you went to the library. Remember when it was only girls who attended? Look at all the boys in line. Of course, there are a lot more books available now to interest both boys and girls, like the Harry Potter series and The Hunger Games.”
“I wish I had more time to read,” Cara whispered.
“Once you’ve established yourself at the law firm, you’ll have more time, you’ll see. First you’ve got to pay your dues.”
They stopped at the corner and the only traffic light in the small town. Pete the cop blew his whistle and waved for them to cross.
“Back to the subject at hand,” Missy said.
Cara shook her head. “Trust me when I say that kids are a long way off for Dan and me.”
Although she would have been supportive if Cara had announced a pregnancy, she couldn’t help feeling a bit of relief. Her daughter had a bright future ahead of her with one of New York’s most prestigious law firms. And at only twenty-four, there was plenty of time before she and Dan started a family.
Making a left at the corner, they almost collided with a kid on a skateboard. Missy jumped back, and Cara hollered, “Shouldn’t you be in school?”
He responded with an upraised middle finger on his left hand and a smart mouth, four-letter suggestion for her to mind her own business.
“Are you okay?” Cara asked.
“I think so.”
“Do you know that kid?”
She shook her head. “No.”
“Great. The town’s next juvenile delinquent.” They entered Luigi’s where the spicy aromas of homemade marinara sauce and roasted garlic made Missy’s mouth water and all the aggravation from a moment ago disappear. Soon after, her stomach set up a growl. Round tables with white linen tablecloths, red napkins and a small vase containing one rose dressed each table, and soft music filled the cozy space.
Anna Maria, Luigi’s wife, all of four feet ten inches tall, dressed completely in black, threw up her arms in delight when she saw them. “What a wonderful surprise!” After they were seated, Anna Maria handed them menus. With clasped hands, she said, “Wait until I tell Luigi you are here.”